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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 10:11 PM   #22
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Kuznetsova continues Russia's rule
By Pete Alfano
New York
September 13, 2004


Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova gives a winner's grin after her victory in the US Open women's final.
Picture:Getty Images



The stadium announcer mangled their names. Playing the Beatles' Back in the USSR while they warmed up was out-of-date and inappropriate. And the match did not quite live up to the magnitude of the moment.

But for Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva, the women's final of the US Open was the crowning achievement in a year when the young women of Russian tennis have taken over the game and won three of the four grand slam titles.

Kuznetsova spoiled another major final for her countrywoman, defeating Dementieva, 6-3, 7-5 to win her first grand slam and give Russian women victories in the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

"Russian tennis is just too powerful," Kuznetsova said, while Dementieva was similarly impressed. "I feel very proud for Russian girls and tennis," Dementieva said. "Today was another great moment. It's a miracle to me that Russian girls won three grand slams and I would be in two finals."

These are the first three slam events won by Russian women. Anastasia Myskina won the French, defeating Dementieva. Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon. Kuznetsova is ranked in the top 15, but wasn't getting much notice when the US Open began.

She has everyone's attention now. She plays aggressively, gambling that the risk-reward ratio will be in her favour. Her serve is for winning points, not just putting the ball in play. And she scurries around the court to compensate for a lack of reach.

Kuznetsova said she was nervous at the start, playing in front of 20,000 fans. It showed, as she was broken at love in the first game. "I thought, 'What am I doing here?' " she said.

But she was able to tune out the crowd.

"There were so many people; I didn't want to think about it," she said. "So when I won, I couldn't show what I felt. I was so shocked and excited, but it didn't come out. My friends and coaches told me I could make this result. Something inside of me was telling me I'd be fine, just do your thing."

Despite making two grand slam finals, Dementieva knows her game is flawed. It starts with her serve. She was broken five times and had four double faults, although she served somewhat better than she did on Friday against Jennifer Capriati in the semi-finals.

"If I want to win a grand slam, I need to have a better serve," Dementieva said. "I have never liked to serve or to practise my serve. I've got to learn to love it."

On the third anniversary of the Twin Towers tragedy, both players earned the admiration and applause of fans in the trophy presentation after the match when they talked about 9-11 and the terrorist attack in Russia on September 1 that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of schoolchildren.

"On behalf of us to you guys," Dementieva told the fans, "we have to stay together and battle terrorism."

It brought thunderous applause she didn't hear during the match. After breaking Kuznetsova in the opening game of the match, she was broken right back. She was broken again in the sixth game when Kuznetsova pounded a forehand winner and then a return winner. Dementieva was broken in the third game of the second set, but broke back in the sixth as fans cheered in hopes of inspiring her.

But if her first serve is weak, her second allows opponents to virtually pick a spot for a winner. Kuznetsova broke at 5-5 when Dementieva was forced to her second serve three times and double-faulted once.

"I knew her game," Kuznetsova said. "We played twice this year and even though I lost once, I had so many chances to win. I know if I play my game, my serve is much better."
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